The dishonesty, banality and inconsistency of Terry Eagleton

February 2, 2012 at 1:16 am (Catholicism, Champagne Charlie, Christianity, intellectuals, philosophy, religion)

“A hundred real thalers do not contain the least coin more than a hundred possible thalers…My financial position is, however, affected very differently by a hundred real thalers than it is by the mere concept of them (that is of their possibility)” –  Immanuel Kant,  Critique of Pure Reason (1781)

Now, please don’t get me wrong about this: like all right-thinking folk I consider the pop-“philosopher” Alain de Botton to be a complete prat. I especially despise his preposterous plan for a “temple to atheism” and (although I haven’t yet read it), I’m sure I’ll hold his book Religion for Atheists in the same contempt.

You’re either an atheist (or a believer) or you’re not. Which is why the term “agnostic” always strikes me as a bit of a cop-out. And as for appreciating the wonders of nature and existence, the warmth of human companionship, or even the grandeur and profundity of religious writing and religious buildings, plenty of atheists (including the supposedly “destructive” Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens) have made it clear that we can appreciate all that stuff. Philip Larkin put it very well in his poem ‘Church Going’:

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

Note that the atheist Larkin is writing about a proper (albeit deserted) church, not some neo-Comptean fake-religious travesty. We atheists (especially, but not only, those brought up on Marxism) understand what religion is all about, even as we reject it.

Which is why de Botton’s attempt to appease religion and the religious – to meet them halfway – is so pathetic and insulting to both sides. Much healthier is the straightforward “destructive” atheism of Dawkins, who declared (of de Botton’s plans), “Atheists don’t need temples. I think there are better things to spend this kind of money on. If you’re going to spend money on atheism you could improve secular education and build non-religious schools which teach rational, sceptical critical thinking.”

Having got all that of my chest, I have to admit that I harbour some sympathy with de Botton when he writes in last week’s New Statesman (not yet on line, so no link) about being “Eagletoned” (his soft-on-religion book had been blow-torched by the so-called “Marxist”  Terry Eagleton in the Guardian):

de Botton on Eagleton:

“This kind of sympathetic atheism infuriated Eagleton for reasons that entirely escaped the archetypal Guardian reader. They may remember him fondly (as I do) from the days when he used to explain critical theory to us – and was unrivalled in the clarity with which he popularised  otherwise complex thinkers such as Lacan.”

Eagleton’s vituperative review of de Botton’s book is often perceptive (well, you’d expect that of an academic of his background), and I especially like his (Eagleton’s) comment about atheists who think religion is necessary and/or accepatable, for the lower orders:

“There is something deeply disingenuous about this whole tradition. “I don’t believe myself, but it is politically prudent that you should” is the slogan of thinkers supposedly devoted to the integrity of the intellect. If the Almighty goes out of the window, how are social order and moral self-discipline to be maintained? It took the barefaced audacity of Friedrich Nietzsche to point out that if God was dead, then so was Man – or at least the conception of humanity favoured by the guardians of social order. The problem was not so much that God had inconveniently expired; it was that men and women were cravenly pretending that he was still alive, and thus refusing to revolutionise their idea of themselves.”

Now, it’s important to remember (or just know) that Eagleton made his name in the 1970’s as  “Marxist” academic and then -quite suddenly – after 9/11, and rational people like Christopher Hitchens had begun a serious attack upon religion,  Eagleton began attacking atheism, whilst still allowing himself to be billed as a “Marxist”, and indeed, as  a (self-proclaimed) “atheist” all the better to give “intellectual” credibility to his defence of religion.

Meanwhile, some of us began to question whether Eagleton really was the “atheist” he claimed to be, and was billed as being…

Eagleton’s attack on  Dawkins in the London Reveiw  of  Books  was well-received on much of the “left” and liberal-Guardianista-“left”:

One of  Eagleton’s complaints, in that article,  against Dawkins’s book (‘The God Delusion‘) was that:

“He (Dawkins) can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single  human benefit has flowed from religious faith, a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false. The countless millions who have devoted their lives selflessly to the service of others in the name of Christ or Buddah or Allah are wiped from human history – and this by a self-appointed crusader against bigotry.”

Yet, now, then self-same Eagleton complains about de Button:

“De Botton does not want people literally to believe, but he remains a latter-day Matthew Arnold, as his high Victorian language makes plain. Religion “teaches us to be polite, to honour one another, to be faithful and sober”, as well as instructing us in “the charms of community”. It all sounds tediously neat and civilised. This is not quite the gospel of a preacher who was tortured and executed for speaking up for justice, and who warned his comrades that if they followed his example they would meet with the same fate. In De Botton’s well-manicured hands, this bloody business becomes a soothing form of spiritual therapy, able to “promote morality (and) engender a spirit of community”. It is really a version of the Big Society.”

That may well be true, but Eagleton must now tell us where he stands on religion: not as some “objective” commentator, but as someone who is a vigorous participant in the debate and who seems to have a strong personal investment in it. We have a right to know where this person stands, and so far he has noticeably failed to inform us.

And a final (for now) theological  point about Eagleton’s ‘position’ upon religion; he says, in his much-vaunted ‘critique’ of Richard Dawkins:

“Dawkins speaks scoffingly of a personal God, as though it were entirely obvious exactly what this might mean. He seems to imagine God, if not exactly with a white beard, then at least as some kind of chap, however supersized. He asks how this chap can speak to billions of people simultaneously, which is rather like wondering why, if Tony Blair is an octopus, he has only two arms. For Judeo-Christianity, God is not a person in the sense that Al Gore arguably is. Nor is he a principle, an entity, or ‘existent’: in one sense of that word it would be perfectly coherent for religious types to claim that God does not in fact exist. He is, rather, the condition of possibility of any entity whatsoever, including ourselves. He is the answer to why there is something rather than nothing. God and the universe do not add up to two, any more than my envy and my left foot constitute a pair of objects.”:

This is, in fact, no more and no less than the well-known (and ridiculous, banal) “ontological argument” of St Ansulem: “Something than which nothing greater can be conceived”: he then argued that something that exists in reality must be greater than something that exists in the mind only; so God must exist outside as well as in the mind, for if he existed in the mind only and not in reality he would not be “something than which nothing greater can be conceived.” I’d call that a circular argument, not worth the time of day, if anyone asked me.

The idea that someone (even a prominent academic like Eagleton) can come out with such religious nonsense, and still be taken seriously as some sort of  left-wing figure, is (sorry about this)… beyond belief.

Eagleton continues, to this day, to present himself as a ‘Marxist’ , whilst concealing the fact that he is, in fact, first and foremost,  a Catholic. Nothing wrong with that as an individual human right, of course,  but in the context of this debate, it is relevant:  religious belief and Marxism, are, of course, incompatible.

But the final reason that it’s important to know where Eagleton is coming from is this: he appears to truly believe that sinners (like Christopher Hitchens) are – or should be –  roasting in hell; he writes:

“Liberal-capitalist societies, being by their nature divided, contentious places, are forever in search of a judicious dose of communitarianism to pin themselves together, and a secularised religion has long been one bogus solution on offer. The late Christopher Hitchens, who some people think is now discovering that his broadside God Is Not Great was slightly off the mark, would have scorned any such project. He did not consider that religion was a convenient fiction. He thought it was disgusting. Now there’s something believers can get their teeth into …”

Or, as de Botton puts it in the New Statesman:

You’d almost miss it: Eagleton believes that Hitchens is roasting and regetting having written God is Not Great. In other words, I was up against a reviewer for whom balance was going to be a challenge.”

What I am saying is this: Eagleton has clearly returned to his Catholicism: that does not in itself disqualify him from the debate about religion and related matters. It does, however mean that we must take everything he says in the context of his  backward superstition. And also in the light of his dishonest concealment of it for many years.


  1. lostbutnotreturning said,

    i find some of shiraz postings thought provoking and useful.i thin some are space fillers.on the down side i dont like the personal abuse substituted for reasoned that if the main contributor disagrees with another”leftist”or indeed anyone else-that person is usually decsribed as an just an ordinary joe not a left academic or”intellectual”(in borgeoius terms)-sometimes i feel hes found it difficult to resist calling me an idiot too.but worst of all it seemed god,and stalin,leninand everyone else resigened/died/retired in favour of this self righteous now shiraz is right(again,yet again)and this time comrade eagleton is wrong like every other leftist thinker.

    i wonder what he thinks of the ordinary workers who went on strike on november 30 and in other industrial actions since or for that matter my brothers and sisters and comrades at sos brent libraries and elsewhere-are we idiots and wrong too.

    shiraz doesnt like the leninist vanguardists but acts like he will lead a vanguard of one…himself

    what happenened to fraternakl discussion-dont need to think anymore or venture any idea or thought-it might be wrong or idiotic or worse- get the line right with shiraz!

    ive had enough,now i just await condemnation and exclusion from the site!

  2. holy joe said,

    “in one sense of that word it would be perfectly coherent for religious types to claim that God does not in fact exist. He is, rather, the condition of possibility of any entity whatsoever, including ourselves”…. This is, in fact, no more and no less than the well-known (and ridiculous, banal) “ontological argument” of St Ansulem”
    So you think an argument that God need not necessarily exist is the same as an argument that he must necessarily exist? Don’t give up the day job.
    “I’d call that a circular argument, not worth the time of day, if anyone asked me.”
    And that probably explains why red faced saloon bar philistines are not generally canvassed for their views on complex logical propositions. Maybe you could roll over and tell the news to Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Hegel and Godel, all of whom employed versions of the ontological argument.

  3. Innocent Abroad said,

    Wasn’t it the late Professor Joad who said: “it all depends what you mean by God”.

    Is the Dalai Lama an atheist? What about Taoism?

    If ever there were a debate in which people mistake cultural particulars for human universals, it’s this one.

  4. The dishonesty, banality and inconsistency of Terry Eagleton « Shiraz Socialist « realitynow2012 said,

    […] The dishonesty, banality and inconsistency of Terry Eagleton « Shiraz Socialist. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post.   Leave a […]

  5. Matt said,

    “the term “agnostic” always strikes me as a bit of a cop-out.”

    Indeed. I think I’m right in saying that T.H. Huxley coined the word as a bit of a joke, which makes its adoption as statement of religious (non)-belief quite funny.

    • Ken Cameron said,

      “the term “agnostic” always strikes me as a bit of a cop-out.”

      It would appear that way to people who have difficulty with the idea that there might be anything they don’t know.

  6. MildMike said,

    Just because you act as though god doesn’t exist, it doesn’t mean you know it doesn’t exist.

    Atheists go around acting as if there is no god, when they cannot prove it.

    That’s the real cop-out.

    • Snow Leopard said,

      I have never encountered an actual unicorn, so the claim that there are no actual unicorns is a reasonable conclusion. The silly claim that I cannot be 100% certain about this is silly because it is irrefutable and unconvincing. More importantly, this bar of 100% certainty is entirely unreasonable as a standard for what constitutes knowledge in life. It is not an accident that ONLY when this question of the biblical deity comes up does 100% certainly suddenly become the criterion for knowledge. Bollocks. I submit that there will be many, many things in your life that you count as valid knowledge that are nowhere close to 100% certain, and yet you would not have it otherwise or claim, “Well, actually, I’m really not sure.” If you’re in a relationship, you are nowhere near 100% absolutely certain that your partner is faithful, but you’ll go around acting as if it’s true, even though you can’t prove it.

  7. paul fauvet said,

    “Atheists go around acting as if there is no god”, Indeed we do – we also act as if there are no dragons, no crashed alien spacehips in Area 51, and no monsters in Loch Ness.

    We don’t have to prove a negative. If you believe in gods (or dragons, or alien spacehips), show us some evidence. And please note – badly edited books written centuries or millennia ago do not count as evidence

    • Innocent Abroad said,

      Paul, who gave you the power (I won’t say “the right”; power knows no right or wrong) to decide what’s evidence and what ain’t?

      Let’s put the question of God to one side for a moment. I happen to consider that the Old Testament contains some powerful reflections on human psychology. Why am I mistaken?

  8. MildMike said,

    I think you do have to prove a negative, or admit you can only be agnostic.

    I think this “atheism” stance is just macho posturing. 😉

    • Snow Leopard said,

      I think it is fair to say that if you arrogate to yourself the right to tell people how they really feel (contrary to what they report), then that’s about as shitty as you can get. Don’t believe me: tell someone who’s depressed that they’re not, that someone who’s gay is not, that someone who’s sad is not, and so on. So, telling me that my atheism is macho posturing is about as shitty as it gets, my man.

      Just about everyone existentially encounters the world and draws their own conclusions about it from their experience (which includes testimony from others, readings, every source that is a source). I’m 100% certain the biblical deity does not exist in some supernatural, ontological, autonomous sense. 100%. My experience makes this perfectly clear to me. No macho posturing about it. One reason I’m sure of this is because when I was 17, I had macho posturing. I said I was an atheist to piss YHVH off. I desecrated my body sexually ono Sunday to piss him off. And one day, it dawned on me, “Wait, if he doesn’t exist, then what is the point of trying to piss him off?” So, I had a choice then: keep pissing him off with macho posturing (and insulting him by saying “You don’t exist”), or actually taking seriously the idea that he didn’t exist, and living accordingly. I chose the latter; the version that isn’t macho posturing.

      The “snotty” dehumanising counter to agnosticism is that it is “cowardly”. And maybe some agnostics are scared. Maybe they find Pascal’s (silly) Wager persuasive. Ultimately, agnosticism is simply the admission, “I’m not sure.” (If there’s any “I’m scared I might be wrong,” that needs to be factored into the picture.) So, “I’m not sure” seems like a lack of confidence in the face of one’s own experience, but maybe it has some other motivation, but that’s why agnosticism gets called “wishy-washy”.

      People will tell me, “Yeah, but what if you’re wrong?” Well, obviously, then I’m wrong. I personally find the idea of eternal anything (heaven or hell) equally horrifying so I’m not fond of either outcome. But, if I die, and there’s some deity going, “Man, what was that all about,” is She going to eternally punish me, let me into some horrible eternal heaven, or be merciful and loving in some way and let me just wink out of existence, or be reincarnated? Who knows.

      Moreover,, if the deity who greets me is the biblical one, and he’s really the trivial non-entity he is in the bible, and he sends me to hell with no possibility of redemption, or with the possibility of redemptions, or with an opportunity to ‘change my mind” and skip hello, or whatnot, then I’ll make those decisions then. Since I lack macho posturing, I’m certainly not going to opt for eternal suffering just on principle to thumb my nose at a cosmic blockhead who has universal power but seemingly no idea how to wield it competently. I won’t be keen on eternal heave though, but if I can avoid eternal anguish, I’ll likely choose it. Supposedly Jesus is supposed to step in on my behalf anyway, so I don’t know how that is supposed to work. Why I have to decide all of this, without any actually reliable information, before I die is a morally bankrupt scenario anyway. That whole situation is (1) completely fucked up and unbecoming of anything that actually warrants the designation of a god, and (2) looks way, way, way more like the kind of shit that manipulative cultists throw around to get you to tithe to their cause.

      Pending better information, I’m not at all worried that I’ve chosen incorrectly or even irrationally. The biblical deity does not exist. 100% the case.

  9. A librarian strikes! said,

    ISTR he was known to have been reconciled with Catholicism in the ’90s (actually, his roots are sort of Marxist-Catholic, IIRC he wrote early essays linking commodity fetishism and Holy Communion and the like).

  10. Matt said,

    @ Mike and Inncocent Abroad, like Dawkins I’m a 99% atheist in relation to your God, in the sense that I can’t defintely prove non-existence despite the evidence pointing to it, just as you are towards Zeus, Krishna and orbiting teapots.

    • MildMike said,

      Now hold on a minute. Who’s god? I never said I have a god. I don’t know, and frankly I don’t care either.

      How can you be a 99% atheist? You cannot, you are an agnostic, whether you accept it or not.

  11. paul fauvet said,

    MildMike and Innocent Abroad – you are the ones who want us to believe in things we cannot see, touch, hear or feel. If you want me to believe in your god, you have to convince me that he/she/it exists. There’s no burden on me to prove that it doesn’t exist.

    I do not decide what is evidence and what isn’t. Science and law have intelligible rules for what constitutes evidence and I didn’t make them up. You cannot win a law suit, or conduct a scientific experiment by appealing to an ancient text, no matter how much you personally like that text.

    Innocent Abroad thinks the Old Testament contains “some powerful reflections on human psychology”. But it also contains chilling incitements to genocide (in the Book of Joshua), various sets of absurd rules (on everything ranging from eating shellfish to homosexuality – both outlawed), and a version of Middle Eastern history that is a pack of lies (there was no exodus, no parting of the red sea, no Abraham, no Joseph, no Moses, and no rich and mighty kingdom of Solomon).

    And even if there are some interesting nuggets about human psychology in a sacred book, that says nothing about the existence of a deity.

    Incidentally, the ancient texts that really do deal with psychological dramas are the works of the great Greek dramatists, Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides – they speak to us with much greater force and relevance than anything in the Bible or the Koran.

    • MildMike said,

      No, I am suggesting that atheism has a lot more in common with theism than you would care to admit. They are both based on faith.

      Agnosticism is the only intellectually coherent response to the notion of a deity, at this current level of scientific development.

    • MildMike said,

      I think we need to get back to basics here.

      Why do we bother to critique religious belief?

      It used to be in order to challenge the notion that people (ie; the working class) should meekly accept their lot, their station in life. To get off our knees and fight back.

      Today organised religion has next to no clout in that way. Where people do tend to have a relationship with the CofE or Rome, it is a much more personalised one, where notions are cherry picked according to taste.

      And yet it is precisely these out of date religious institutions that atheists seem to still have a problem with.

      There are much more powerful groups in society telling us to accept our lot and reign in our ambitions, in a quasi spiritual way.

      Buddhists, New Age, Gaia theory and all that crap. They are never the subjects of atheisms ire, yet they are far more influential than the established church.

      • Faster Pussycat Miaow Miaow Miaow! said,

        You are crackers. In which universe is/are ‘Buddhists, New Age, Gaia theory’ more influential than the ‘established church’? Why is Buddhism or ‘New Age’ or Gaia theory any more crap that Abrahamic religions?

        Sleeping Beauty – that’s true but that Red Riding Hood is total bollocks.

        As for the atheist has to show why there is matter, this is further evidence that you are disappearing up your own solipsistic arsehole – leaving nothing but a smiley face made of shit.

  12. Matt said,

    If by agnosticism, you mean “there is no evidence for the existence of God but non-existence cannot be proved definitively” then OK but it’s normally taken to mean a more neutral position of “don’t know/there’s no way of knowing either way” which is why atheism is a better description of those who are 99% sure that there is no God (or flying teapots).

    • MildMike said,

      No, 99% sure is the agnostic position.

      Atheism is no gods, no ifs, buts, or maybe’s.

      The atheist has to show why there is matter. We cannot do that yet, so atheism is an untenable position.

      • Snow Leopard said,

        The 100% standard is never applied anywhere than this one special case, so that makes it suspect.

        But, what do you mean “has to show why there is matter”? What? Creation ex nihilo requires a cause? And that cause has to be … personified? What?

        In the first place, creation ex nihilo is already the logically most consistent position. The universe “pops” into being (the chances are infinitesimally small, but before there is time, probability = instantaneously), and with it an anti-universe (thus assuring conservation of all the stuff that needs conserving). Voila. If you’re confused where all the anti-matter is, realize that the eruption of the Big Bang was double-trumpet-shaped not spherical; the matter universe went one way and the anti-matter universe went 180 degrees in the opposite direction. The idea that our universe is a “bubble” instide of a (much larger) trumpet-shaped conical space allows completely consistent scientific explanations

        More to add; have to go buy a house now though.

  13. Matt said,

    No, as I said before, agnosticism is the “50-50 chance/no way of knowing” position.

    “Atheism is no gods, no ifs, buts, or maybe’s.”

    That’s not Dawkins or any other atheists view that I know. Anyone who says they are 100% rather than 99% sure there’s no God is trying to prove a negative. 99% is equivalent to the legal idea of “beyond reasonable doubt”.

    “The atheist has to show why there is matter. We cannot do that yet, so atheism is an untenable position.”

    I really don’t know what you mean by this.

  14. Jim Denham said,

    MildMike: with all due respect…Bollocks! British courts accept 98% certainty as sufficient to convict. I’m 99% certain there is no god (or flying teapot) and I’m a 100% atheist.

    • MildMike said,

      “I’m 99% certain there is no god (or flying teapot) and I’m a 100% atheist.”

      No you’re not, and British courts, or workers tribunals are irrelevant here.

      Why are you only 99% certain? Why not 95% or 25%? How do you quantify? It might just as well be 1% certain.

      If there are no gods, then it’s 100% and conflating atheism and agnosticism is intellectual infantilism.

      With all due respect… 🙂

  15. paul fauvet said,

    “The atheist has to show why there is matter”. Rubbish – that’s the realm of physics and cosmology.

    In fact, theoretical physicists have a fairly good idea of what happened during the big bang, and it doesn’t involve a god.

    There are certain problems, of course, which physicisits have not yet solved – such as why there is so much matter in the universe and so little anti-matter. But somehow I doubt if these interesting questions are what MildMike is talking about.

    All of modern physics is in total contradiction to the sacred texts on which religion is based. In the modern view of the universe, there is simply no room for a deity.

    • MildMike said,

      “The atheist has to show why there is matter”. Rubbish –

      There are no gods, oh yes there are, oh no there aren’t, oh yes there are…

      If you state a position you have to justify it.

      You do not have to prove a negative, you simply have to prove why there is… stuff… in order to negate the possibility of a deity.

      One day we’ll do it, I’m sure (that’s faith!), but till then we don’t have the knowledge to be atheists, only sensible agnostics, like me.

  16. flyingrodent said,

    Mencken said you should respect a man’s religious theories just as much as you would his belief that his wife is beautiful and his children are clever, i.e. politely, until he starts being a cock about it. This is spot on, and Eagleton crossed that threshhold long ago. He’s unbelievably dull and his arguments smack of desperation.

    Also, people over the age of 19 who still consider themselves agnostic are bullshitters. Even if our ignorant ancestors were somehow correct – which they weren’t, living as they did in a barely-literate, pre-soap era – then claiming to have an open mind won’t save you from the Lake of Fire, twerps.

    • Faster Pussycat Miaow Miaow Miaow! said,

      Indeed Jim. Enjoy it while it lasts Rodent.

  17. Jim Denham said,

    I agree 100 % with The Rodent: well, there’s a first time for everything.

  18. Jim Denham said,

    …except incest and country dancing.

  19. Faster Pussycat Miaow Miaow Miaow! said,

    bloody indenting bollocks

    Indeed Jim. Enjoy it while it lasts Rodent.

  20. Jim Denham said,

    Oh yes, “Holy Joe”:

    I am *possibly* correct; therefore I *am* correct; and if you doubt my correctness, then that’s just evidence of how unsophisticated you are. You simply don’t understand my correctness, so you have no right to comment upon it. OK?

  21. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

    religion. fuck off.

  22. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

    anyway. i seen a telly show with that nice brian cox presenting it and he definitely proves that religion is a load of spunk.

  23. Faster Pussycat Miaow Miaow Miaow! said,

    The mythological figures of the Old Testament are no more real than Herakles or Perseus. As Paul Fauvet says, there was no exodus, no parting of the red sea, no Abraham, no Joseph, no Moses, and no rich and mighty kingdom of Solomon.

    There is no evidence for a historical Jesus – ‘near contemporary’ accounts have as much value as ‘near contemporary’ accounts of King Arthur. The Jesus story is yet another version of the Osiris/Pan/Mithras/Tom Cobbly myth.

    It bears repeating that atheism is not a ‘belief’ there is no god. It is an absence of belief.

  24. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

    Everyone needs a hobby.

  25. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

    I prefer the company of maniacs, drunks and drug addicts to the religious and respectable any day.

  26. Faster Pussycat Miaow Miaow Miaow! said,

  27. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

    when roDenT iisn’t being a dick he can be quite yer funny man.

  28. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

    As for the fuckwitt in middle here…that can be arranged pretty easily.


  29. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

  30. Faster Pussycat Miaow Miaow Miaow! said,

    Anyone who wears those Guy Fawkes masks – them and all…

    (Occupy kids need to find another avatar)

  31. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

  32. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

  33. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

    highly relavent

  34. Seosamh said,

    The arrogance of anybody who states that Marxism and Faith are incompatible beggars belief. Tell that to the many priests, nuns, catechists and laypeople in the poor countries of the South who, taking the Bible as a charter of liberation for the poor have used Marxist analysis to interpret and understand the social systems that are the causes of poverty and oppression, hunger and slavery. In so doing they then set out to build structures that were reflective of justice and peace and a contradiction to the dominance of power and greed. Many of these people were martyred for making a preferential option for the poor, because that was what Jesus did, but not alone because of his example, but out of sheer love here and now for those who are weak and voiceless. Oscar Romero was a prime example shot down at Mass, for opposing such oppression. Tell me that Camillo Torres was deluded and then justify.. Please wake up and smell the coffee or perhaps the incense.

  35. A librarian strikes! said,

    All this hair splitting about agnosticism/atheism. ISTR there’s a Charlie/Fred quote describing agnosticism as English atheism; which is, effectively, what it is.

  36. Faster Pussycat Miaow Miaow Miaow! said,

    Apart from the institutionalised torture and child rape which permeates it, the Catholic Church has instigated some of the worst mass murders in history. It is profoundly anti-human and is everywhere a force for ill.

    Any good that priests and nuns do is despite their faith, not because of it.

    Jesus did not ‘do’ anything in the real world any more than Frodo in Lord of the Rings did. He is a made up fairy story, a retelling of an existing myth. If Jesus is real, then Osiris, Baldur and Mithras are all equally as real and valid and true.

    We will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

  37. dave said,

    I quite liked de Botton’s suggestion on pinching Dutch ideas on public housing. Also, I read Proust because my wife read that book of de Botton’s on him and Proust is great: kind of like highbrow Seinfeld, but much closer to the bone. And he’s at least as much a philospher as, say, Chris Bertram over at the Crooked Tims, although he writes more engagingly.

  38. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

    “Religion is very similar to music and very different from language”

    After too long an immersion in the pseudo-left swamp, it’s a pleasure to get clean with some perceptive, thought-provoking writing by someone else who is concerned to grasp reality rather than retreat from it.
    Pascal Boyer (who he?) begins this long and impressive article:

    …by peremptorily, but convincingly, challenging ten more or less widespread assumptions about just what religion is – including:

    “‘Religion answers people’s metaphysical questions’: Religious thoughts are typically activated when people deal with concrete situations (this crop, that disease, this new birth, this dead body, etc.).
    ‘Religion is about a transcendent God’: It is about a variety of agents – ghouls, ghosts, spirits, ancestors, gods, etc. – in direct interaction with people.
    ‘Religion allays anxiety’: It generates as much anxiety as it allays: vengeful ghosts, nasty spirits and aggressive gods are as common as protective deities.
    ‘Religion is about explaining natural phenomena’: Most religious explanations of natural phenomena actually explain little, but produce salient mysteries.
    ‘Religion creates social cohesion’: Religious commitment can (under some conditions) be used as signal of coalitional affiliation, but coalitions create social fission (secession) as often as group integration.
    ‘Religion is irrational/superstitious, therefore not worthy of study’: Commitment to imagined agents does not really relax or suspend ordinary mechanisms of belief formation; indeed it can provide important evidence for their functioning and therefore should be studied attentively.”

    He then refutes the conventional rationalist view that “people have religious beliefs because they fail to reason properly”, pointing out (among many other things) that:

    “A variety of mental systems, functionally specialised for the treatment of particular (non-religious) domains of information, are activated by religious notions and norms, in such a way that these notions and norms become highly salient, easy to acquire, easy to remember and communicate, as well as intuitively plausible […] In other words, religious thought activates cognitive capacities that developed to handle non-religious information. In this sense, religion is very similar to music and very different from language. Every normal human being acquires a natural language and that language is extraordinarily similar to that of the surrounding group. It seems plausible that our capacity for language acquisition is an adaptation. By contrast, though all human beings can effortlessly recognise music and religious concepts, there are profound individual differences in the extent to which they enjoy music or adhere to religious concepts. The fact that some religious notions have been found in every human group does not mean that all human beings are naturally religious. Vast numbers of human beings do without it altogether, like for instance the majority of Europeans for several [sic] centuries.”

    there are clearly large numbers of people out there who have given up on religion – or say that they have – but still believe in word magic (“United Nations”, “Amnesty International”) and name magic (Chomsky, Pilger, Moore), while displaying a “commitment to imagined agents” that, for instance, any self-respecting Theravada Buddhist, Sufi or Quaker would be ashamed of.

  39. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

    ps. “you do not reason a man out of something he was not reasoned into.”

  40. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

    “Abandon the State to Islam and you will get Talibans and Shari’a; tolerate Papist totalitarianism and the Inquisition will be reborn, as will the crime of blasphemy and natalist Propaganda, which is the purveyor of massacres. Endure rabbis and you shouldn’t be surprised that the old anathema of the Hebraic religion against the goyim will re-emerge: “May their bones rot!”

    It is time to say it again, with force: nothing prevents someone from practicing a religion, following a belief, defending an ideology, but no one should impose it upon others and — a still more unacceptable thing — to indoctrinate the children. All convictions can freely express themselves, even the most aberrant, the stupidest, the most odious, the most ignoble, on the express condition that, dwelling in the state of singular opinions, they can not oblige anyone [else] to receive them against their will.

    Nothing is sacred. Each person has the right to criticize, to rally, to ridicule all of the beliefs, all of the religions, all of the ideologies, all of the conceptual systems, all the [schools of] thought. Each one has the right to shit upon in their totality all of the gods, messiahs, prophets, popes, priests, rabbis, imams, bonzes, pastors, gurus — all as much as the heads of state, kings and caudillos of all types.

    But a freedom repudiates itself from the moment that it doesn’t emanate from a will to live fully. The religious spirit revives everywhere that sacrifice, resignation, guilt, self-hatred, the fear of pleasure, sin, redemption, and the denaturation and impotence of man becoming human are perpetuated.

    Those who attempt to destroy religion by repressing it have only ever succeeded in reviving it, because it is the spirit of oppression reborn from the cinders par excellence. It feeds on cadavers and it is hardly important to it that intermixed in its mass graves the living and the dead are indifferently martrys of its faith or victims of its intolerance. The religious virus will reappear as long as there are people who groan and show off — as if it were a title of nobility — their poverty, their sick state, their debility, their dependence, nay, their revolt that they dedicate to failure.

    God and his avatars are only ever fantasies of a mutilated body. The only guarantee of putting an end to the celestial empire and the tyranny of dead ideas is the renewal of the bonds between the impulses of the body and the responsive intelligence that refines them. We must re-establish communication between consciousness and the only [true] radicality: the aspiration of the greatest number of people to happiness, pleasure and creativity.

    Only the invention of a terrestrial life, vested in [devolue] the richness of our desires, that will accomplish the supercession of religion and philosophy, its servant master.”

  41. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

    Religeosity is the highest expression of alienated consciousness and is the greatest obstacle to self consciousness.

    The blatent accommodation that liberalism/soft cunt pinko-leftists has with religion is nothing more than a tacit understanding that they are pretty much on the defencive, that they are playing it safe. A ruthless critique of totality has been cast out. The psuedo left/wibberwull cuernts are currently about as likely to tackle the religious question as they are of tackling any other vicious, misogynist, sadistic and irrational regimes or notions. And so it has come to pass; All religions are true. Everythings OK. Your OK. I’m OK. Live and let live.

    No. Instead try this. Deny G_d and affirm yourself. Communism – the way forward and out of the swamp.

  42. splinteredsunrise said,

    I see Jim still hasn’t got over King Rat croaking it.

  43. modernity's ghost said,

    No doubt splintered sunrise will put forward the theist’s case?

    It would be amusing to read his arguments, although he might want to explain what the Catholic Church has been doing recently concerning abuse within its ranks.

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      Just as soon as Jim addresses Peter Tatchell’s interesting opinions on paedophilia, which I assure you no bishop could get away with.

      • Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

        catholic scum and abuser of children. nasty piece of werKK

  44. Jim Denham said,

    Read Tatchell’s statement on these paedophila allegations for yourself, Mr Sunrise. It’s in the comments under the post “Happy birthday comrade Tatchell”, (Jan 25th). I’d say Tatchell was ill-advised to have contributed to that book and I don’t agree with him about lowering the age of consent. But he’s made his opposition to any form of child abuse crystal clear – more than can be said for your despicable church and its loathsome priests, hypocritical pontif and years of cover-up and lying about the issue.

  45. The Boring God « Decline of the Logos said,

    […] I stumbled across the blog of Shiraz Socialist, on which is a fascinating post about the mini-controversy surrounding Terry Eagleton’s review of Alain de Botton’s […]

  46. blerrgggHHHHHH CKomentaryERER said,

    NUjwe docuemenatary comemngiun otyh soon!

  47. blerrgggHHHHHH CKomentaryERER said,

    lokok9ois leiek it might be okayh.

    • Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

      I preferr the fillums of Melville

  48. holy joe said,

    I think the late lamented Belfast councillor George Seawright, who called on Belfast council to buy an incinerator for Catholics and their priests, would feel right at home on this little dungheap. Seawright later lamented that he was the only person ever to have been expelled from the DUP for bigotry – thank goodness nobody in the AWL could ever undergo such an indignity.

    • holy joe said,

      gosh yes, now that you point it out I see that it’s perfectly all right to call for the killing of Catholic scum if you’re not a Protestant, how silly of me to get confused! and presumably you are cool about those who advocate the massacre of Jewish scum providing they don’t do so on religious grounds. As you were chaps, no offence taken.

  49. Jim Denham said,

    Sean Matgamna
    Now, Mary places papers all along the kitchen,
    On table, dresser, chairs: small girls at school;
    Herself, the nun, alone with children in her den.
    Mary is re-enacting school, the convent school,
    Where little girls are shaped, chastised, cut
    By holy women strung alive to God’s tight rule.
    So she begins to teach: she stiffens, starts to strut
    Facing the girls, like nemesis engaged,
    A long thin stick in hand. Slowly she starts to “tut”.
    “Tut-tut! Tut-tut! Tut-tut!” Soon anger sparks to rage,
    Deep-rooted rage: a wounded eye-less Id
    Seething with rancid, poisoned life inside a cage.
    Now she begins to shout: she scolds her paper kids,
    Upbraiding them as fool, dunce, dim-wit:
    Ne’er-do-well, bad little sinful Patsies, Neaves and Brids.
    From shouting soon to action: now she starts to hit
    The table, the dresser, the unfeeling chairs
    With the thin stick, face clenched, caught up, reliving it.
    She slaps the table, the dresser, slashes at every chair:
    Wood rings on nerveless wood, with rapid blows,
    In frenzied mimic violence, ’till papers tear.
    Mary slashes and beats, her eyes fierce that they glow,
    Lost in fevered playing at nuns’ school,
    At home, in deValera’s Ireland long ago;
    Lost in a wounded re-enactment long ago.
    (written in 1991)

    A scene I witnessed (writes Sean Matgamna). Mary, who would have been about 9, was a pupil at the girls National school, run by the Sisters of Mercy, the only girls primary school in Ennis. These nuns had a reputation amongst the poor of the town for being very severe and violent with the children, but selectively so. They were relentlessly punitive, physically brutal and persecuting with the “Industrial girls”,
    who were in their full-time custody, less severe, though still very severe , with the children of the poor, and noticably less severe, or not severe at all, with the children of the well-off. That at least was their reputation amongst sections of the poor practicing Catholics in Ennis.

  50. holy joe said,

    Oh why stop with Matgamna’s poetry Jim, let’s have some real hard core porn for Protestants, with “The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk”

    (Incidentally, on second thoughts, please do stop with Matgamna’s poetry)

  51. Jim Denham said,

    Can’t take the truth about your hideous, backward, child-abusing church, eh, Joe?

  52. holy joe said,

    oh gosh, here’s some hideous backward child abusing religious stuff you will doubtless wish to face the truth about

    and that’s only scratching the surface of what’s out there, since it is a bona fide website dealing with genuine cases – there are many scabrous anti-Semitic sites pursuing this theme and making the most lurid and unsubstantiated kinds of allegations, which I guess would make them the equivalent of your midden.

  53. Jim Denham said,

    How low can you sink, you fascistic-catholic scumbag?

    You clearly stand firmly in the tradition of Father Coughlin.

    I’d suggest reading this:
    …but it will do no good in your case. You’re simply a poisonous catholic antisemite.

    P.S: we must never, of course, forget Hitler’s Pope:

  54. Faster Pussycat Miaow Miaow Miaow! said,

    This was a perfectly civilised discussion about atheism until some cuerrnt(s) decided to bring Roman Catholicism into it (somehow RC is held up as definitive proof of the benefits of religion: ie wars of religion, genocide, antisemitism and fascism). The falangists can’t help themselves.

  55. holy joe said,

    I think you’ll find the civilised discussion began with a denunciation of Eagleton for being a recusant concealing his backward superstitious beliefs from honest Brits like Jim and then veered predictably into denunciations of “Catholic scum”, “your despicable church and its loathsome priests” etc. I find this sort of abuse of religious minorities unfortunate on a supposedly socialist website, and pointed out that Jim would presumably not riff off child abuse within the Jewish community to denounce “Jewish scum” and “loathsome rabbis”. Or perhaps he would, since he tells us he spent many of his formative political years as an active anti-Semite and I guess there is always the chance of a relapse. In any case, haven’t you people got anything better to do with capitalism collapsing? Unfortunately, I suspect not.

  56. holy joe said,

    and talking about how low you can sink, linking to something by Jared Israel really takes the biscuit! Jared Israel, for fuck’s sake! do you not know anything about this guy?

  57. Jim Denham said,

    Yup: the spirit of Father Coughlin lives on.

    Linking to a review by Jared Israel, of of John Cornwell’s book “Hitler’s Pope” of course in no way implies any support for Mr Israel (whose view on a range of issues are, indeed, obnoxious). I used the link because it was the best short precis of Cornwell’s book I could find in the course of a brief online search. How about dealing with the substance of Cornwell’s book, Joe?

    On a more serious note,: it’s worrying, isn’t it, how Catholic and other religious bigots are now using the lexicon of anti-racism as a carapace against criticism of their beliefs and the activities of their organisations?

    The last government is, of course, partly to blame by bringing in the ridiculous and anti-democratic Religion or Belief regulations.

  58. holy joe said,

    Jim, I realise that Father Coughlin is the only American political figure you have heard of apart from Lindbergh, but I really don’t feel any great commonality with him. And I have no intention of using the law to silence your hate speech, although were you publishing this kind of stuff in NI you might find yourself in trouble. As for the lexicon of anti-racism, I realise that appealing to that will not cut much ice against Decents, who generally dislike minorities for putting chaps off their strokes and undermining the war effort with all that special pleading. There are however two minorities who Decents really really lurrve, and that is why I often find it useful to ask how they would feel about such language being used in relation to Jews or gays – sometimes it has an effect, but obviously not on the thicker elements. In any case, it’s no real skin off my nose if some supercilious middle class Brit, whether it’s you or the Pussyman, wants to sneer at beliefs which have deep value and meaning for millions of working class people – but I would ask again if you could not find anything better to do at this moment in time?

  59. Jim Denham said,

    “…such language being used in relation to Jews or gays”; it is, quite often, in case you hadnt noticed, Joe. Not least by Catholics.

    Btw I regard it as my duty to dismantle false conciousness, especially when it’s held by “millions of working class people.” And when that involves attacking religion and bigots like you, it’s not just a duty but a pleasure.

    • Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

      well sed Jim. may i also congratualte you on a fine post as well.

  60. holy joe said,

    “And when that involves attacking religion and bigots like you, it’s not just a duty but a pleasure.”
    Ah yes, the preposterous self-preening bluster of Hitchens, down to a tee! Can you do Jimmie Cagney as well? good luck with that consciousness dismantling anyway, after the first million it’s a breeze I’m told.

  61. Jim Denham said,

    Not Cagney, but someone very similar in a lot of respects (the bandleader Eddie Condon, invited to give his last confession):

    “Bless me Father; I disobayed my parents, I disobayed my sisters, I disobayed the nuns, I disobayed you, Father. Say seven Hail Mary’s and the stations of the cross and go home and wash your face.”

  62. Practical Happiness and the Guardian « Max Dunbar said,

    […] hasn’t this been done? Jim Denham notes that prominent atheists have already spoken in praise of religious works – read Hitchens, for […]

  63. Jim Denham said,

    “it’s perfectly all right to call for the killing of Catholic scum”…err..where have I or anyone else associated with ‘Shiraz’ ever done that, or said anything that in any way could possibly, rationally, have been interpreted as meaning that?

    You’re a hysteric, Joe.

    Seek help.

  64. Faster Pussycat Miaow Miaow Miaow! said,

    Jimbo, there is no point in arguing with someone who is fundamentally dishonest. Don’t waste your time mate, especially against someone who peddles the most outrageous whoppers.

    Far from being a ‘minority’, the Roman Catholic church is the largest Christian denomination and the most powerful and wealthy religious organisation in the world. Attacking that structure and its officials in no way counts as ‘sneering’ at believers.

    To ask why one myth is ‘true’ and another is considered a lie (eg Buddhists, New Age, Gaia theory and all that crap), or even worthy of ‘eternal damnation’ is not ‘sneering’ at believers.

    While struggle against superstition must be subordinated to the class struggle (the yoke of religion that weighs upon mankind is merely a product and reflection of the economic yoke within society), it is at the same time necessary to steadfastly advance a scientific, materialist, humanist world outlook.

    The rest of it I have no idea about. I don’t know what this ‘Decent’ is, it’s probably very important to him but is of no consequence here in Asia, although it is very quaint to be called a ‘Brit’.

    The sexism ‘pussyman’ is quite run of the mill and predictable.

  65. SteveH said,

    Now Jim is 99% sure God does not exist, I am 100% certain.

    However all this shit about child abusing scum etc. I mean do you really think that is in anyway contributing to the elimination of false consciousness? It is hardly Feuerbach is it?

    In the West the biggest peddlar of false consciousness is TV and the media (religion is a marginal force). I see no campaign against those things on Shiraz.

  66. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

  67. holy joe said,

    #63 My comment above was in response to one of Mr Jelly’s more bloodthirsty ejaculations, which now seems to have been removed. It wasn’t aimed at you. As for seeking help for hysteria, I assume the AWL has a list of approved clinics to which it refers its members?

  68. Roger said,

    It’s ‘Comtean’ and ‘Anselm’


  69. Jim Denham said,

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